Major MSOs and telcos, of course, are forging ahead with TVE services built from the ground up in cooperation with various suppliers. Meanwhile, a bevy of turnkey solutions have emerged to allow smaller players to get in the game, often in ways that solve long-standing cost barriers to launching traditional VOD as well. Yet, by and large, it’s the third-party OTT aggregators rather than small operators who are exploiting many of these new capabilities.
One example of this phenomenon can be seen in the success startup Dyyno has had marketing its cloud-based multiscreen service solution to OTT providers as it waits for purchase decisions from the network SP community. “We’re working with dozens of cable companies individually and through organizations to start projects, but we don’t have anything to report yet in the way of firm commitments,” says Vamshi Sriperumbudur, vice president of marketing at Palo Alto-based Dyyno.
An executive from another supplier to the lower tier operators, speaking on background, is more blunt. “Based on our initial discussions with operators and some of the coops they’re affiliate with, it seemed they were in a very aggressive posture, given the pressures they’re under from OTT and other competitors,” this executive says. “But the irony is, there are so many options in the market now, they’re taking much longer to make up their minds than we anticipated.”
Dyyno, founded in 2007 and actively marketing its turnkey solution since 2010, has racked up commitments from more than 25 OTT providers worldwide, some of which, like IPWorldTV, are classifying themselves as “virtual MSOs.” Dyyno’s platform is now streaming over 500 TV channels as well as thousands of on-demand movies and time-shifted TV programs to a wide range of devices, including iPads, Samsung Smart TVs, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Roku, PCs, Macs, iPhones and BlackBerrys, says Dyyno president and CEO Raj Jaswa.
“Building an enterprise-scale platform that excels in live market trials and deployments is significant,” Jaswa asserts. “At Dyyno we have built the industry’s most comprehensive and scalable TV Everywhere platform from the ground up, and with a single goal: to offer the fastest way to monetize any content, anywhere, on any device.”
IPWorldTV, operating out of Santa Ana, Calif. since 2005, bills itself as “the largest ethnic IPTV platform on Earth” with a portfolio of over 300 TV and radio channels from 40 countries. Having built its business on TV access via an IP set-top box, the company recently expanded its reach to multiple connected devices via the Dyyno platform within a timeframe that comports with the goal articulated by Jaswa.
“With Dyyno, we launched our curated TV channels on Android-based STB, iPad, Roku, Samsung Smart TV and PC in a couple of months, creating a brand new channel that’s bringing us subscribers globally,” says IPWorldTV CEO Alinur Velidedeoglu. “We also offer these streams on iPad and PC for our legacy STB users, and are very pleased with the results and excellent feedback we’ve received from content owners and end users alike.”
Vlidedeoglu’s reference to an Android-based set-top highlights one of the selling points of the Dyyno platform, which is a unit produced by Geniatech in China retailing for about $65 and available in volume at $50 per unit, according to Dyyno’s Vamshi Sriperumbudur. The box lends itself to use as a standalone or companion device in a variety of scenarios, from delivering a pure OTT play service to combinations with existing cable channels or off-air broadcast, he says.
“Operators can program the built-in app to deliver an enhanced EPG that allows users to set up recording for up to eight days’ worth of programming while viewing what’s available in the way of catch-up TV,” Sriperumbudur says. The set-top, which comes with Wi-Fi as well as HDMI and CVBS connection ports, also affords users access to some 500,000 Android apps, he notes.
The turnkey service includes cloud-based DVR recording that can be ordered from any device. “Our customer determines the options, which can be anywhere from two to eight days of catch-up TV,” he says.
Dyyno’s turnkey service encompasses a video operations system incorporating metadata and rights management, encoding, multi-device adaptive rate streaming, storage on the Amazon cloud system, CDN distribution through Level 3 and support for billing, performance analysis and CRM, Sriperumbudur says. “We support three monetization methods in any combination, including subscription, advertising and pay-per-view,” he adds, noting that the platform has the flexibility to tie in with customers’ pre-existing suppliers, including CDNs, billing, storage and other components.
The company’s pricing scheme is designed to minimize the pain for smaller entities with a one-time development fee of $1,995-$25,000 depending on the scope of devices served and then a monthly revenue share. “Our business model for the most part is revenue share,” Sriperumbudur says.
A key target for vendors, including Dyyno, who are positioned to provide TVE capabilities to smaller operators is the National Cable Television Cooperative, now serving over 950 cable companies in the U.S. Sriperumbudur reports Vyyno’s demo at a recent NCTC conference stirred great interest, leading to ongoing discussions with the organization as well as individual member companies.
Another venture that’s engaged in such discussions with NCTC is ConnXstream, a partnership involving itaas, RGB Networks, Verimatrix and Verivue. As described by Jim Elayan, vice president of marketing at Itaas, the companies have combined their solutions to offer a ready-to-launch live streaming service with great flexibility to tailor all aspects of their infrastructure and the applications layers to suit their specific needs.
“We’re neutral with regard to what hardware or software solutions you use at any point,” Elayan says. “It doesn’t matter what CDN, DRM or adaptive methods you want to employ. Our specialty as a software systems integrator is to make sure customers can integrate whatever combination of solutions works for them.”
That said, the motivating incentive for ConnXstream was to create a carrier-quality TVE solution that would meet rigorous quality of service and protection requirements for live streaming of premium content while maximizing operators’ speed to market. “There’s an advantage, because we’ve worked with these other players to create a complete ready-to-deploy end-to-end solution,” Elayan says.
The core point of system orchestration is the application server supplied by itaas, which aggregates all the touch points between the ConnXstream platform and the operator’s back office, including processes associated with authentication, defining usage policies, service provisioning and asset and metadata management. By bringing to bear all these processes and adding ones specific to managing the multiscreen service, the application server acts as a back-office extension dedicated to managing all facets of IP-based operations.
In the live program streaming application supported by ConnXstream, subscribers’ IP devices are authenticated through the itaas application server, which also delivers the user interface application developed by itaas and the client software for security management supplied by Verimatrix. Every request for access to a channel stream is sent upstream to the nearest cache in the Verivue-supplied CDN infrastrucure and from there to the application server. Once authorization is confirmed, the applications server passes the request to an origin server where an adaptive streaming segment appropriate to that device type is unicast to an assigned cache and from there to the user’s device.
The adaptive streaming segments for all classes of devices for each TV channel are injected into the origin server via unicast streams from the RGB Networks’ TransAct packager. Each segment unicast to the origin server is assigned its own ID within a complex multi-channel, multi-segment playlist, which is continuously updated by the packager to provide a means of associating a given device request with the appropriate stream segment from the requested channel.
As explained by Santosh Krishnan, vice president of product strategy at Verivue, the path assigned by the CDN for the unicasting of each segment to a caching server is determined by the request routing instructions issued from the cache that receives the initial channel request from an end user. In the instance of a first request to a given cache for a given segment the cache will register a miss and go to the next cache in the hierarchy to request the segment or to the origin server if there isn’t another caching tier.
Typically the distribution route taken will be through the cache closest to the client device, but if that cache is 100 percent busy at the moment, the next best cache will be chosen. Verivue’s “cut-through caching” feature accomplishes all this in near real time with extremely low latency of just 10 milliseconds from request to delivery in the instance of a single step up the caching hierarchy or 20 milliseconds if the segment is found to be two layers removed from the first cache, Krishnan says.
The question of whether smaller operators can afford to deploy their own CDNs or are better served relying on video-optimized CDN capabilities such as Level 3 and many other CDN operators provide is a key issue for NCTC and others weighing the TVE options. Krishman makes the case for the operator-owned approach on the grounds that Verivue has created a solution that minimizes capital and operations costs while giving operators complete managed-network level control over their premium service distributions. This, along with the ironclad content protection afforded by the Verimatrix solution stack, is critical to gaining rights to stream live content.
“One of the distinguishing aspects of our platform is its scalability and reliability for all kinds of workloads, anywhere from linear to on demand, from small to large objects,” Krishman says. “It’s also a very cloud-based way of doing things with software and virtualization aspects where caching, management and analytics are all components offered as software running on virtual machines on commodity servers.”
For example, the platform is designed to minimize bandwidth costs as usage scales to ever higher volumes, he says. Once streamed segments for a given class of devices of a given program are unicasting to a cache and as long as the stream continues, all subsequent requests to that cache from that class of clients for that program will be served with unicast streams from the cache.
In this fashion the hierarchical use of unicasting from packager to origin server to caches to end users conserves bandwidth to maximum advantage with rigorous quality performance end to end, he explains. Quality assurance is maintained throughout by the application of management analytics to report on all streams as they enter and leave the caches.
But, for all the benefits offered by ConnXstream, Dyyno and many others, operators are uncertain how to proceed, given the complexities of the live adaptive rate streaming environment and the costs of maintaining rigorous quality performance as ever more users with ever more types of devices tap into the TVE system. “It’s not an easy decision, and it’s taking much longer than we thought it would,” Elayan says.